How Does Music Therapy Make A Difference For Older Persons?

Music therapy treatment is efficacious and valid with older persons who have functional deficits in physical, psychological, cognitive or social functioning. Research results and clinical experiences attest to the viability of music therapy even in those who are resistive to other treatment approaches. Music is a form of sensory stimulation, which provokes responses due to the familiarity, predictability, and feelings of security associated with it.

What Do Music Therapists Do?

After assessing the strengths and needs of each client, qualified music therapists develop a treatment plan with goals and objectives and then provide the indicated treatment. Music therapists structure the use of both instrumental and vocal music strategies to improve functioning or facilitate changes that contribute to life quality. They may improvise or compose music with clients, accompany and conduct group music experiences, provide instrument instruction, direct music and movement activities, or structure music listening opportunities. Music therapists are usually members of a health care interdisciplinary team and they implement programs with groups or individuals that display a vast continuum of needs, from leisure time classes and community involvement to bedside care.

Where Do Music Therapists Work?

Music therapists offer services in skilled and intermediate care facilities, adult foster care homes, rehabilitation hospitals, residential care facilities, hospitals, adult day care centers, retirement facilities, senior centers, hospices, senior evaluation programs, psychiatric treatment centers, and other facilities. Music therapists also work for agencies that provide in-home care. Some therapists are self- employed and provide individual and group music therapy services on a contract basis.

What Can One Expect From A Music Therapist?

When individualized music experiences are designed by a professionally trained music therapist to fit functional abilities and needs, responses may be immediate and readily apparent. Participants without a music background can benefit from music therapy.

Music therapy provides opportunities for: 

•    Memory recall which contributes to reminiscence and  satisfaction with life 

•    Positive changes in mood and emotional states 

•    Sense of control over life through successful experiences

•    Awareness of self and environment which accompanies increased attention to music 

•    Anxiety and stress reduction for older adult and caregiver 

•    Non-pharmacological management of pain and discomfort 

•    Stimulation which provokes interest even when no other approach is effective 

•    Structure which promotes rhythmic and continuous movement or vocal fluency as an adjunct to physical rehabilitation 

•    Emotional intimacy when spouses and families share creative music experiences 

•    Social interaction with caregivers and families

--Text courtesy of  the American Music Therapy Association

Please check out this short informational video

Music Therapy in Alzheimer's and Dementia Care